Episode 111: Insect Repellents

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Lauren, Laura, and Gem discuss insect repellents, natural and artificial, historical and modern, and ask the question: “Do any of these natural bug sprays actually work?” The answer might surprise you! (Yes. The answer is “yes”.)

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing (NIH) | The Efficacy of Some Commercially Available Insect Repellents for Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (Journal of Insect Science) | The Mosquito Patch | Thiamin Health Professional Fact Sheet (NIH) | Repellent efficacy of DEET, MyggA, neem oil and chinaberry oil against Anopheles arabiensis (Malaria Journal) | Neem oil (Wikipedia) | Neem Oil Fact Sheet (National Pesticide Information Center) | Vitamin B1 as a Mosquito Repellent (Livestrong) | The Effect of Exercise and Heat on Vitamin Requirements (NCBI Bookshelf) | The Excretion of Ascorbic Acid, Thiamine, Riboflavin, and Pantothenic Acid in Sweat (Journal of Biological Chemistry) | Citronella oil (Wikipedia) | Toxicological evaluation of neem oil: acute and subacute toxicity (PubMed) | Stink Bugs and Cedar Spray (Orkin) | Homemade Bug Repellent with Essential Oils | Mozi-Q Fools the Dragons (Science-Based Pharmacy) | Homeopathic Insect Repellent: Is there anything the Natural Health Products Directorate won’t approve? (Skeptic North) | Avon Skin So Soft Bath Oil as Bug Spray Review (Consumer Reports) | Apple Cider Vinegar: 13+ Health Benefits (Reader’s Digest) | How to Make a Natural Flea and Tick Remedy with Apple Cider Vinegar (WikiHow) | Mosquito repellent effectiveness: A placebo controlled trial comparing 95% DEET, Avon Skin So Soft, and a “special mixture” (BC Medical Journal) | Lethal dose (Wikipedia) | Nicotine (PIM) | Is glyphosate, used with some GM crops, dangerously toxic to humans? (Genetic Literacy Project) | The Four Best Bug Repellents: DEET, IR3535, Picaridin, Oil Of Lemon Eucalyptus Most Effective, Says EWG (MedicalDaily) | DEET (Wikipedia) | Deet (Extension Toxicology Network) | IR3535 (Wikipedia) | Ethyl Bytulacetylaminopropionate IR3535 (WHO) | Icaridin (Wikipedia) | Icaridin (WHO) | 2-Undecanone (Wikipedia) | Mosquitoes Repelled by Tomato-Based Substance; Safer, More Effective Than DEET (ScienceDaily) | 2-Undecanone Safety Data Sheet (Fisher Science) | Mosquito coil (Wikipedia) | Pyrethrins (Extension Toxicology Network) | Mosquito Coil Emissions and Health Implications (NIH) | DIY Mosquito Trap: How Mosquito Magnets Work (HowStuffWorks) | Mosquito Magnet Test Studies

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Natural Remedies Never Kill?

Cross-posted from Startled Disbelief.

"Medicine" Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Hey, look! Another completely absurd and almost fact-free article from syndicated columnist Dr. Ken Walker (who writes under the name W. Gifford-Jones):

“Health Canada has been raiding health-food stores, terrorizing proprietors and confiscating natural food supplements,” Dr. Zoltan Rona, an expert on natural remedies, recently told me.

Walker’s article is alt-med propaganda at its most pedestrian. He presents those who peddle “natural remedies” as embattled heroes who are being bullied by Health Canada, which is in the pocket of corporate interests. I find this especially amusing, given that Health Canada has recently been censured for its decision to loosen the licensing requirements for natural health products while bypassing important safety and efficacy checks. (A decision that heavily favours corporate interests, yes: the corporate interests of the multinational corporations who manufacture and distribute natural health products.)

It’s been a while since I’ve played Name That Logical Fallacy, but let’s see… The reader is presented with a false dichotomy in the form of a choice between corporate-controlled pharmaceutical medicine and feel-good “natural” remedies; the deaths resulting from the use of pharmaceutical interventions hint at the fallacy of the perfect solution (the government shouldn’t approve drugs that aren’t perfectly safe and perfectly effective); there’s at least one appeal to antiquity (Nattokinase “has been used for centuries” in Japan); and finally there’s Walker’s completely dishonest (or unforgivably ignorant) claim that “prescription drugs can kill, natural remedies never”: while this isn’t a fallacy, it is the false premise that lies at the very heart of the article.

Walker’s point seems to be that Health Canada should just get out of the way: if the remedy is “natural” (whatever that means) and/or has been used for a long time, its safety and efficacy are unimpeachable. Walker seems to be advocating for some sort of medical free market paradise, a deregulated Wild West of frontier medicine in which the government gives any old snake oil a free pass—snake oil, of course, being completely natural.

“Alternative” medicines can and do kill, directly and indirectly. Natural remedies often lack proper controls to prevent contamination or adulteration; herbal remedies are drugs, and their use in concert with pharmaceuticals can result in unexpected drug interactions; the dose of the active ingredient in herbal remedies is often inconsistent or highly variable (while it is precisely controlled in pharmaceuticals; that’s sort of the point); and when presented with a “natural alternative”, some patients may eschew science-based interventions (that are actually effective). If you’re looking for heart-wrenching stories of people killed as a result of so-called “natural” medicine, here are a couple hundred of them. “Alternative medicine” is most often simply an alternative to medicine.

Walker should be ashamed of himself for promoting such absurdities. But that’s nothing new.

Episode 46: Home Birth

Episode 46: Home Birth

Trigger Warning: There is a discussion of “birth rape” 42 minutes into this episode.

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Richelle McCullough, Laura Creek Newman, and Dr. Laura Targownik talk about home birth, “natural” childbirth, and other pregnancy-related topics from a science-based perspective.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Home Births Rise Despite Higher Neonatal Mortality Rate | Orgasmic Childbirth | Benefits of Natural Childbirth (SheKnows Parenting, JustMommies, Attachment Parenting Advice, allParenting) | Natural Childbirth, Pain, and Shame | In Passionate Support of Caesarean Births | A Plan For Natural Birth: Hold The Drugs, Please | Yes, There Was Pitocin: A Birth That Didn’t Quite Stick to the Script | Home Birth with Midwife Safe as Hospital | What is “Birth Rape”? | Women’s Health Clinic Principles of Service for the Birth Centre

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